September 25, 2021

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Rex Ryan’s success couldn’t match his mouth in…

3 min read
Rex Ryan's success couldn't match his mouth in...

Rex Ryan introduced himself with bombastic talk, predicting a Super Bowl title and saying he wouldn’t kiss Bill Belichick’s rings. He left lacking the swagger that made him so popular among Jets fans, losing his final eight games and toning down his braggadocious act as the defeats piled up.

On Dec. 29, 2014, Ryan was given a pink slip by owner Woody Johnson, fired following six entertaining and somewhat successful seasons — his final two alongside ill-fitting general manager John Idzik.

“We’re in the win business and we’re not winning, so I thought this was something I had to do,” owner Woody Johnson said. “I didn’t get into football to do this, it’s a necessary step for me to do this. I had to do it and I thought it was in the best interest of the team to do it.

“It became pretty apparent during the season as we progressed that the team was not getting better. And, as [Bill] Parcells said, you are what your record says you are. It was obvious that we had to make a change — it was obvious to me, anyway.”

Ryan’s six-year tenure was an experience. There was early success and ample shortcomings. Big promises and bitter disappointments. Frequent distractions and nonstop trash talk. He accomplished what no other Jets coach ever had – Ryan reached consecutive AFC championship games in his first two seasons – but also flamed out like so many others, failing to reach the postseason in the final four seasons of his coaching career with the green and white. The media loved Ryan, who was quick to deliver a good soundbite, but as the Jets’ success waned, his act grew stale.

rex ryan jets tenure disappointment
Rex RyanAnthony J. Causi

Ryan came to the Jets and guided them to the AFC title game in 2009 and 2010. His defenses then were dominant, and he leaned on a “ground and pound” style that lessened the pressure on young quarterback Mark Sanchez. The 2010 postseason would be the high point of his time with the Jets, who knocked off Peyton Manning and the Colts and Tom Brady and the Patriots in back-to-back road playoff contests. But after a narrow loss to the Steelers in the AFC championship game, the team headed in the wrong direction. They went 26-38 the next four years, as the defense regressed, and the offense never took flight under the defensive-minded Ryan. Bringing in Tim Tebow proved to be a mistake and Geno Smith didn’t answer the Jets’ quarterback problems, either. Ryan was too loyal, sticking longer than he should have with Sanchez and Smith.

After going 6-10 in 2012, the Jets replaced general manager Mike Tannenbaum with Idzik, a move that backfired. Idzik drafted poorly, was conservative in free agency and didn’t mesh with Ryan. The Jets started 1-8 in 2014 and angry fans flew a banner over the team’s practice field with “Fire John Idzik” on it.

“I’m not sure if there was a disconnect, but I can tell you the ideal is to have a connect, because you have to be on the same page as your coach,” Johnson said, hinting at a problem between the two men who went 12-20 in their two seasons together.

Since Ryan’s departure, the Jets haven’t returned to the playoffs. The last time they were a factor in the AFC, he was on the Gang Green sideline. He may have faded, but his first two years, the Jets were a force.

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